Last week we went to Joshua Tree National Park, the closest National Park to our home. It took us only 2,5 hours drive, even shorter that it would take us to drive to my in-laws house! 😉 We’ve booked an AirBnb a while back and just so it happened, there was a heatwave warning during the weekend we planned to go! We could’ve cancelled but didn’t want to deal with the hassle, so we still ended up going anyway…
To be completely honest, Joshua Tree was not my favorite National Park. When it comes to nature, I am more drawn to trees than rocks. But we were so desperately wanted to be out and get fresh air, so we went.
Living in California, you can’t ignore its magnificently beautiful nature (notice the hyperbole here, but it is indeed really pretty!). To be honest, before moving to California, I was more of a city person that outdoors when it comes to traveling. Browse my old travel blog posts, you’d see very few nature-related travel.
But I now live in such close proximity to nature. It is so easily accessible, so it triggers my curiosity. Slowly, my interest began to shift and I began to include a nature spot on my travels. When it comes to building an itinerary, I even found a formula that I really enjoy! That is, to visit a nature spot, but stay in the closest big city, so that I can also explore the city life.
This is a long-overdue post but I guess it’s the perfect time to share about this particular trip of mine… to refresh the internet with pretty pictures hehe. Back in November 2019 my husband and I went on a mini vacation to celebrate our second anniversary. We didn’t go too far away because I had school, but we are lucky to live surrounded by beautiful places here in Southern California. The place that we visited is called Running Springs and it took us just 1,5 hours drive away from our house.
The theme for our vacation this time was simply to relax, so we chose to stay in a tiny cabin called Getaway. Check out their website to see what they got to offer.
Hello April! Spring has sprung and for some of us it’s the perfect time for a break. This month, the topic for Stories from The West is about travel. I’m sharing a quick travel guide to Orange County, where I am currently residing. You can also read Dixie’s guide to Gothenburg here.
If you plan to visit Los Angeles, I’d gladly suggest you to not skip visiting Orange County. Located 45 minutes away from downtown LA, Orange County has its own charm and can really make your LA vacation more special! While I know people mostly come here to go to Disneyland, but there are far more things to do here in OC than just visiting Disneyland. Here’s a list of some things that that you can do in Orange County (Disneyland excluded!).
#1 Spend a Day at The Beach
Orange County has several beaches, each with its own charm. I might write a separate post about the beaches in OC, but if you only have a day to be spent at the beach, I’d say Laguna Beach is your go – to. Laguna Beach is situated in the south of OC, it’s a bit far from LA, but only a short drive from Disneyland Anaheim. Start your day by having breakfast or brunch at downtown Laguna Beach. Even there you can already feel the laid-back beach atmosphere. There are a lot of small cafes and breakfast places that you can choose, but I personally love Moulin– a small French cafe with delicious pastries. While you’re walking around downtown Laguna, you can stop by Laguna Coffee Company for a cuppa!
There are a handful of smaller beaches in Laguna Beach, you can choose the Main Beach if you want to immerse yourself in the crowd. Main Beach can get really crowded especially during warmer days but I think it’s always fun to people watch.
However, my personal favourite spot in Laguna Beach has got to be Treasure Island Beach. To get here, you can find Montage Laguna Beach hotel, park there, and then take a short walk to the beach. This spot is less crowded, with white sands, and amazing view!
Once you get tired of the beach (but really, how could one gets tired of the beach? :P), next on the itinerary is to check out local cliffside cafes to watch the sunset and have an early dinner. I like Driftwood Kitchen, but there are other great places that you can go to.
#2 Try Hiking
Another thing that you must do while you are in Orange County is to go on a hike. There are several great hiking spots in the area, each with different categories. Well, I’m new to hiking as I just started to hike frequently since I moved here. So I know I haven’t been to a lot of hiking spots, but I’ve been to a few that are easy to do for starters like me, with great views as well.
The first spot is Top of The World in Laguna Beach. It has a few treks, ranging from easy to hard. For starters like me, there’s even a short route that can be done in 30 minutes. The view is beautiful and it’s no hassle to get here, surely this place is hard to miss.
Another great spot is Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. It is located just 5 minutes drive from downtown Huntington Beach, just by the Pacific Coast Highway (remember the song?) It’s flat trek with pretty ocean views where you can also do some bird spotting if you are a fan.
#3 Embark on a Culinary Adventure
I have to say that food is one of Orange County’s greatest treasures. As LA’s neighbour, this area is pretty much just as multicultural, and I might be biased, but I actually found some of the best international tastes here instead of in LA.
Westminster and Garden Groveis the place to start if you are craving for Asian food. It’s the hub for Southeast and South Asian communities in Orange County, so you’ll find lots of great Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino, and Indian food here. Sadly, no Indonesian restaurant in this area, but I can’t complain as I can still get food with familiar Asian taste just a short drive away.
If you are more of a fan of Chinese and Japanese food, then your go-to place is Irvineand Costa Mesa. Irvine is a college town, famous for international students because of UC Irvine’s reputation. Costa Mesa is hard to miss because there’s South Coast Plaza, possibly SoCal’s best mall – definitely worth the drive if you want to spend some $$$ while traveling.
Of course as an Asian I have to start with pointing out Asian food, but actually Orange County has so much more than just Asian food. Santa AnaandOrange(yes, there is a city called Orange) should not be missed if you are interested to try Mexican / South American food.
It’s really hard for me to choose one favorite restaurant in Orange County – it really depends on what kind of food you are looking for. Bottomline is, you will never feel hungry in Orange County because there is just so much great food! Take a trip around the world by trying out different kinds of food, all just a short drive away within each other.
Anyway, to sum up this quick travel guide to Orange County – there’s really so much to see / do besides Disneyland. Hit me up if you are ever in the area and need some recommendations, I’d gladly share more of my favorites! See you in the next Stories from The Westposts 🙂
R and I went to Palm Springs for our anniversary trip a couple months back, and it was super fun! Palm Springs is a desert town located about 2 hours away from where I live now. I heard that it is famous as a tourist destination as well as a retirement place for the rich.
We left for Palm Springs on Sunday night, stopped by Morongo Valley Casino for a dinner buffet (YES we love to eat dinner buffet!). The buffet is not bad at all although the food selection is not as diverse as the ones in Las Vegas. After buffet, we continued our drive to Palm Springs, checked in to our motel and rest for the night.
We stayed in a newly renovated motel called Infusion Beach Club. It is located not too far from the city center, but Palm Springs is a small town anyway so there’s nothing too far here. Last time we checked the motel was still in soft launch phase, so there were a couple of works being done, but I could tell that it’s going to be a great motel once everything is finished.
After a good rest, we started the day early because we wanted to catch the sunrise at Joshua Tree. The national park is located about an hour drive from Palm Springs, so we left at around 6, arrived just in time before sunrise and managed to see the beautiful view within the park. It was magical! We didn’t explore the park much (it’s a BIG park), just drove by and stopped here and there to enjoy the scenery, but we still managed to see a lot of out-of-this-world scenery. Here are some pictures 🙂
Before going back to the motel, we stopped by Crossroads Cafe, a small diner in Joshua Tree’s main street. It was one of the best breakfast that we have had, R even said he would make the drive from Orange County just to get the breakfast 😀
We had about an hour and a half to kill before our check out time so we decided to enjoy the pool in our motel, there was barely anybody besides us so it felt like swimming in our own private pool hehe. Although tiny, the pool area had this Bali-style beach club so there’s nothing to complain about!
After checking out, we decided to explore Palm Spring’s downtown and stopped by a couple of cool spots. One of my favorite spots is Ace Hotel Palm Springs, where we had THE BEST Nutella cheesecake at their King’s Highway Diner.
Our next stop was Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Now, this is the coolest spot. The tramway gets you to Mount St. Jacinto Peak from the desert with just a 10-minute ride. It cost $25.95 per person, which I think worth every penny. The view at the top is really pretty – you can also hike and even camp at the peak. Enjoy the pictures 🙂
We went back after sunset and drove home. It took us about 1,5 hours to get home – it was a long day but very memorable. I really recommend Palm Springs if you want to have a quick getaway from Los Angeles or Orange County. Now, tell me, when’s the last time you had a quick getaway?
The trip actually happened during last Christmas break but I haven’t had the chance to write about it until now.. so.. yeah :)))
Although we just got back from Indonesia, R suddenly realised that his office would be closed from Christmas until New Year so we decided to have a mini-vacation. We initially wanted to go to New York but obviously, it was not a good idea because we didn’t plan it in advance so flight ticket prices were skyrocketing!
We then decided to go on a road trip to nearby state and this time we chose to go to Utah. We had 4 days and the trip was super unplanned and I feel like we could’ve planned it better, but anyway it was a fun trip and memorable because it was our first one.